In May 2021, fans of the CBS television drama "NCIS: Los Angeles" perhaps noticed a widely distributed online advertisement about the character Hetty Lange. Lange is portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1983).
Please note that the rest of this story contains spoilers for "NCIS: Los Angeles."
The Misleading Ad
The ad in question promised: "[Photos] Why Hetty No Longer Appears On NCIS Los Angeles."
Hosted by the Outbrain advertising network, the Hetty ad had been displayed on a number of websites for at least several months. Outbrain-hosted ads appear across a large number of pages including quite a few local news websites.
Despite the ad's promise, it led to a 35-page slideshow article that never ended up mentioning Hetty Lange on "NCIS: Los Angeles."
The Real Reason for Hetty's Absence
Hunt's recent absence from the show is simple. The show's producers wanted to keep the 76-year-old actress safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Oct. 30, 2020, TV Line published a quote from "NCIS: Los Angeles" showrunner R. Scott Gemmill.
Given how COVID can be especially tough on older people, shows may take extra precautions with cast members and recurring guest stars of a certain age.
NCIS: LA, for example, filmed Linda Hunt's scenes for the Nov. 8 season premiere at the actress' home, outside in her driveway!
"We're doing everything we can to keep everyone safe, and Linda, you know, is a little extra-special in terms of how we have to look out for her," showrunner R. Scott Gemmill explained.
Hetty Returning for Finale
While the ad and lengthy story were misleading, fans of "NCIS: Los Angeles" can look forward to the character's return in the season finale on May 23.
According to multiple entertainment blogs, Linda Hunt will make another appearance as Hetty Lange.
On April 23, 2021, Digital Spy reported that "NCIS: Los Angeles" would return for its 13th season, likely later in 2021. However, returning cast members had not yet been announced.